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Category: FWCC World Plenary

Thoughts on Translation and Transformation

Post from Christina, January 23:

I arrived at the World Plenary late Wednesday night due to weather-related travel delays. I am so, so overjoyed and grateful to be here. The past few days have been an incredible opportunity to connect with Friends of so many different backgrounds. Since arriving, I have participated in plenary worship sessions, a Section of the Americas Meeting at which we received updates from various FWCC committees, meetings on consultation topics, smaller worship group meetings, Young Friends meetings, and many, many wonderful conversations. In many of these situations I hear this phrase:

“Bienvenido Amigos. Welcome Friends.”

It’s a greeting I’ve heard hundreds of times in my life; only this time I hear it twice, in both of my languages. Along with a diversity in cultures, age, and Quaker practices, the plenary has brought together a diversity of languages. There are at least five mother tongues present.

It has been a gift to be part of such a large multi-lingual gathering. As part of the minority that can speak both Spanish and English, the conference has it’s own particular flavor. In smaller groups I am often prepared to translate if there is no other bilingual person present. There are many things I am grateful for in terms of knowing both languages in this context; hearing ministry in its original language, being able to help when I can see there has been a misunderstanding, and if I miss one of the (many) announcements I get to hear it a second time. I have been able to make connections with many Peruvian and Bolivian Friends, laughing, sharing stories, and talking about the challenges we see facing our community. But perhaps most importantly for me, being a bridge between these languages has increased my attentiveness to Friends’ ministry.

Even in cases when I am not the translator responsible for the session, I find myself asking ‘What words would I use to help others understand this message?’ I’ve begun to practice this even when translation is not necessary.

At times it is necessary that I translate messages that I do not agree with, using language that I do not identify with. This too, helps me deepen my faith. In these cases, I am called not only to translate the language, but to look beyond the words to the meaning behind it, to find our common beliefs. Thinking about how to convey another friend’s message so that it carries the intended meaning has deepened my relationship to ministry. Faith translation, in quite a literal sense.

The other night, we had a Young Friends Meeting at which there were about 65 young friends in attendance. The energy was excited and enthusiastic! This was the first time I had been in such a large group of Young Friends, and it was hope-giving.

We played a game at this Meeting in which someone in the middle of the circle would call out a phrase that applied to them and all those in the circle to whom the phrase applied to would have to get up and find another seat. For example, “All those who have been to a Young Friends gathering in the past.” And anyone who that applied to would jump up and scramble to find another seat. There was always one seat less than the participants, so someone always got stuck in the circle. This was fun and chaotic.

During this simple game, it was necessary for us to translate what was being said by the person in the middle of the circle. However, those who had understood the message the first time often began to move before the translation had been finished. We stopped and reminded ourselves that it was important to pause until everyone understood the message before taking action.

This is a practice in patience and compassion. I find myself being asked to listen closer, to pause. Much in a similar way as when I listen for the Light while in silent worship, I find myself being challenged to open myself to truly listen to other Friends, especially when the initial message is not something that I feel I can fullyagree with.

This continual practice of listening is a process that generates transformation of my faith. When I translate a message, it continues to be the other friend’s ministry, but it is inescapable that part of myself joins their message. Though helping to share Friend’s messages, I not only become a witness to their ministry, I become part of it.

We are currently half way through the Plenary, and I can’t wait for the experiences and conversations that are to come in the rest of the week.

PS. The internet is too slow at the moment for me to upload any photos, will do this when the connection improves!!

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A day of splendour

Post from Steve, January 22

Today was excursion day, and I chose the Sacred Valley. We headed north from Pisac, at one end of the valley, in the direction of Machu Picchu, which is at the lower end of the valley in the cloud forest area closer to the Amazon. We visited three different sites of Inca ruins. I could write pages about the wonders we saw; a day later I am still feeling a bit stunned. However, I will simply intersperse the images throughout this posting without comment. welcoming-africans

The arrival of a large group of Africans has been delayed by visa problems. Many of them arrived yesterday, just before we headed out on our various excursions, to the great joy of everyone. Later in the day, while most of us were away, a large group of Bolivians and Peruvians arrived to join us for the weekend.

As in previous gatherings, I find that spending time with Quakers from other theological orientations does not necessarily move me closer to their particular beliefs. In fact, I find that my own beliefs are often clarified and confirmed, and I grow deeper in my place in my own tradition and theological family. But I definitely grow closer in love to Quakers whose beliefs are very different from mine. I am making wonderful connections, having numerous heartfelt conversations both with new friends and friends I know from pervious gatherings. I know I will return home deeply changed and enriched. moray_1

I had a long conversation with an American Friend last night about how times of deep wounding can crack us open to be vulnerable to the Spirit, leading to a depth of Spiritual growth that would not have been possible otherwise. And he renewed in me a desire to let my life be more Spirit-led—listening to the still, small voice in all the moments of my life, engaging in an ongoing form of waiting worship.

I spoke to the British Friend with whom I co-led a home group at the world conference in Kenya. She is a theologian and talked about how although Quakers do not talk about the Trinity, in fact most of us do relate in some way to three different aspects of the Divine—the Divine as Creator, the Divine as revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus, and the Divine as indwelling spirit—in other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Almost all of us have some relation to God as Creator. The primary relationship of certain branches of Quakerism, such as Evangelical Quakers, is with Jesus. And for many Liberal Quakers, their primary relationship is with the Indwelling Spirit. I found this perspective very helpful in thinking about the diversity of our theologies.

I cannot say how much gratitude I feel towards Canadian Friends for helping me to attend this conference. To say I am being enriched by the experience is a huge understatement.ruins-5

 

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Fire

Post from Steve—January 21, 2016

It’s very hard to get a good Internet connection here, which is complicating my blogging.

I shared the following poem in the silent worship this morning. It was written when we lived in a small log house on a mountainside in the interior of British Columbia, where our children were born. At that time we lived an hour and twenty minutes from Vernon Monthly Meeting.

 

I wake to find the morning ashes glowing, barely red.

Too weak to draw a draft, the morning fire is almost dead.

I gather up the coals into a small compacted bed

And breathe on them until a self-sustaining flame is bred.

 

We, too—so scattered. Gather up your Friends like coals,

And breathe on us, Lord, ’til we light each other with our souls.

 

All ministry is translated into Spanish and French. The French translator added that if it were George Fox that was breathing on the coals, it would create a powerful apocalyptic fire! (And her addition was translated back into Spanish and English.)

There is indeed a fire growing here among us, the kind of fire that starts to grow when Friends gather in large gatherings like CYM and FGC. I woke up in the night and I felt like my heart had cracked open and was releasing healing tears.

This morning was the worship session organized by the English-speaking part of the Section of the Americas. The theme of the spoken message was the importance of nourishing the spiritual life of children. But the message that dominated the open worship that followed was a call to allow children to share their ministry with us. One woman compared it to the radical development among early Quakers of allowing women to also preach and asked if we can likewise give the ministry of children an equal and important place. And many Friends gave examples of how their lives had been touched by the ministry of the very young.

This is a message that our daughter Lilia would have resonated with, who has a gift with children and has dedicated herself to educating them with love and respect.

This evening I went to a fascinating presentation by a woman who is in the early stages of a research project of how Quakers helped Jews survive during the time of the Nazis. Please contact me if have any personal connection to this history.

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Heart transplant

Post from Steve, January 20:

We are into the first full day of the conference. Unfortunately, Christine’s flight from Lima was cancelled and she still had not arrived at the time of writing this.

There are over 300 people here from all around the world. Spanish is the primary language, but all plenary worship and business sessions have translation between Spanish, English and French. I am meeting many people I met at the World Plenary in Kenya and in other FWCC gatherings. In my small home group we have Friends from South Africa, England, Ireland, Peru, United States, Canada, Georgia (the country), and Russia.

view-from-my-window

We were given a very warm welcome by the conference organizers and Friends from the local Quaker communities—Peru and Bolivia. We were reminded that we might be challenged by the diversity we encounter here—linguistic, cultural, culinary, and theological. An organizer of the conference from Britain told us that some of us experience God through a very dynamic relationship with Jesus, whereas others experience the Divine as a gentle rain falling on us through our lives.

mayor-loresThis morning, the plenary worship was sponsored by Latin American Friends, who are mostly of the Evangelical tradition. There was singing, praying, a fairly long sermon, and a period of silence that was filled with ministry from the floor from a couple of Spanish pastors. North American Friends sponsor the plenary worship tomorrow, and I am on that organizing team.

The main theme of the conference is transformation. The pastor who gave the sermon tpdau spoke at length of the multiple crises we are facing—a lust for power, political violence, family breakdown—and how the core crisis is that people have lost their connection to the Divine, which can be regained through giving our lives over to Jesus to be transformed.

Sacred-HeartCoincidental to my previous post, the main place where the transformation takes place, he said, is in our hearts. He used the image of a heart transplant in which Jesus removes our dysfunctional heart and replaces it with his heart. He said that the heart has a cellular memory, and that there are many cases in which people who have had surgical heart transplants report having interests and inclinations they never had before, only to then discover that these interests and inclination mirror those of the previous owner of the heart. Likewise, he said, when we receive the heart of Jesus, we receive things related to his heart–a desire to pray, a desire to read the Bible every day, and a desire to be different from most people.

So what personal query do I take away from this morning? Have I surrendered my life in trust and gratitude to the Great Mystery?

 

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Dharma Pentecost

Post from Steve–January 18, 2016 :
As I prepare for the upcoming conference, I reflect back to the World Conference in Kenya in 2012. What bound us all together there—we who had come from such different cultures, languages, traditions and theologies?

Certainly there was our common Quaker heritage. Looking back to the time of George Fox and the early Quakers, one sees the roots of our common Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, and community. There we can also find the roots of the various Quaker traditions—for example, the Christ-centred and Bible-centred approach of Evangelical Quakers, and the Universalist strain with its focus on ongoing revelation and an openness to learn from the Light in the many forms it comes to us.

However, on a deeper level still, the essential bond that held us to together was Divine love, and a commitment to express this in our lives. Above all else, this was the fire that fuelled everything good that came out of the conference in Kenya and helped us to transcend our differences and celebrate our diversity.

In our own ways, we all strive to comprehend the mystery of our lives here on Earth. And the product of our collective striving is a spectrum of beliefs about our relationships with the Divine, our fellow human beings, and the rest of creation. As important as these beliefs are in helping us negotiate our way, our beliefs can easily become barriers that separate us from each other.

How did Jesus summarize all the sacred teachings? “Love God with everything you have. And love your neighbour as yourself.” So one of the core teachings of Jesus is that it is not primarily through our minds that we will find salvation, but through our hearts. This is not referring to the heart in the popular meaning of the heart as the seat of sentimental feelings, but rather the heart as the window that the soul uses to see and be with what really is, not what we would like it to be.

And how did Jesus describe this God he entreated us to love? The best image he could think of to describe his experience of the Divine was as a Father who welcomes his wayward child home no matter how often or how badly he has failed. In other words, at the heart of creation lies a well of goodness. We are not adrift in a capricious, dangerous universe. The ocean of light covers the ocean of darkness.

And how did Jesus explain who our neighbour is? He used the story of the Good Samaritan, a member of a cultural group mistrusted and hated by the Jews, who helped the Jewish man who lay beside the road beaten by robbers and ignored by his fellow Jews. In other words, he spoke of a love that transcended all barriers.

Sacred-HeartAs long as we can keep our hearts open to the Divine and to each other, there is some possibility that we can heal the separations that are the source of hatred and violence. When our hearts close down in the face of fear, anger or pain, so does the possibility of reconciliation and redemption. Maybe that is the message of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which one sees so often here in Latin America, with Jesus revealing a heart burning with both love and pain.

So as we approach the World Plenary here in Pisac, I pray that all of us attending can maintain open hearts, for sometimes the most confusing and annoying differences are those we feel among the members of our own family.

I have tried to express this image of opened hearts in the attached painting. It’s called “Dharma Pentecost.” In the New Testament Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended from above to rest in the form of flames above the heads of the disciples. This painting is a visual prayer for an ongoing Second Coming, with the Holy Spirit breaking through not from above, but from within each heart as it opens out towards reconciliation with the Other.

You can see the painting in more detail at this link. Dharma Pentecost  (Click on the image, once it appears on the new page, to enlarge it.)

pentecost-lores

 

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